Milan Gvero

31.05.2016 ( Last modified: 09.06.2016 )
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Milan Gvero was born in Mrkonjic-Grad, on 4 December 1937. After having studied in Banja Luka, he entered the military academy of Belgrade, where he received his masters degree thanks to his thesis on political sociology. He had never received any training in the strategies of war.

Officially, Assistant to the Commander in Chief of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), for morale, legal, and religious affairs he was unofficially the spokesman for Ratko Mladic and his favourite chess partner. Promoted to the rank of Colonel, he was also the spokesman of the Federal Defence Secretariat.

In his official position, within the main staff of the VRS, Milan Gvero was one of seven assistant commanders who reported directly to the commander of the main staff, General Ratko Mladic. As such, Milan Gvero would have had knowledge of the project aimed at forcing the Muslim population out of the enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa, and would have participated in the execution of this project, as stated in the indictment.

On 6 July 1995 or around this date, and according to the order given by general Zivanovic on 2 July 1995, units of the Drina corps bombarded Srebrenica and attacked lookouts held by the Dutch battalion of United Nations (Dutchbat) situated in the enclave. On 9 July 1995, President Radovan Karadzic modified the initial order and approved the taking of the Srebrenica enclave. The order was passed on by the general Zdravko Tolimir to the accused person, at the advanced post of command of the Drina corps. The attack launched by the Drina corps against the enclave of Srebrenica, notably its bombardment, and the attacks against the other lookouts of United Nations continued until 11 July 1995, date in which the forces of the brigade of Zvornik, the brigade of Bratunac, the 10th detachment of sabotage and the other units of the VRS entered Srebrenica. On 11 July 1995, NATO planes released bombs to try to stop the VRS. In spite of these efforts, Srebrenica fell to the hands of the VRS on 11 July 1995.

According to the indictment, Milan Gvero, together with other VRS and MUP officers named in the indictment, was a member of, and knowingly participated in, a joint criminal enterprise, the common purpose of which was, among other things, to forcibly transfer the women and children from the Srebrenica enclave to Kladanj on 12 and 13 July 1995 and to capture, detain, summarily execute by firing squad, bury, and rebury thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys aged 16 to 60 from the Srebrenica enclave between 12 July 1995 until 19 July 1995.

The joint criminal enterprise, in which Milan Gvero was a member and participant, was conceived and designed by General Ratko Mladic and others on 11 and 12 July 1995, and administered and carried out by members of the VRS and MUP forces through the attack on the Srebrenica enclave.

During the several days following the attack on Srebrenica, the Bosnian Serb Army and Ministry of the Interior forces captured, detained, summarily executed, and buried over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys from the Srebrenica enclave, and forcibly transferred the Bosnian Muslim women and children of Srebrenica out of the town.

Milan Gvero voluntary surrendered on 24 February 2005 to the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).

legal procedure

Milan Gvero voluntary surrendered on 24 February 2005 to the ICTY. He made his first appearance on 2 March 2005 and pleaded not guilty to all counts of the indictment.

The indictment charges Milan Gvero on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility (Article 7 §1 ICTY Statute) with:
– Four counts of crimes against humanity (Article 5 ICTY Statute – murder – persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds – inhumane acts (forcible transfer) – deportation).
– One count of violations of the laws or customs of war (Article 3 ICTY Statute – murder).

On 21 September 2005, following a request from the Prosecutor, the judges accepted to join the 9 cases linked to Srebrenica’s massacre. The nine accused – Ljubisa Beara, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Milan Gvero, Radivoje Miletic, Drago Nikolic, Vinko Pandurevic, Vujadin Popovic, Zdravko Tolimir and Milorad Trbic – were all either senior officers in the VRS or the special police force.
In early March 2008, the ICTY Trial Chamber dismissed motions for the acquittal presented by the defence. The Court said prosecution had presented enough evidence to substantiate charges against the accused.

The Trial began on 14 July 2006.

The Prosecution case was closed on 7 February 2008.

The Defence case commenced on 2 June 2008 and closed on 12 March 2009.

On 10 and 11 March and then on 25 March 2009, the Prosecution, in reopening its case called three witnesses and furthermore, called four rebuttal witnesses in the period from 23 March until 29 April 2009.

The closing arguments are scheduled to commence on 24 August 2009.

On 10 June 2010, the Trial Chamber sentenced Gvero to a single sentence of 5 years imprisonment. He was found to be guilty pursuant to Article 7(1) of the ICTY Statute of:

– Persecution, as a crime against humanity;
– Inhumane Acts (forcible transfer), a crime against humanity.

He is found not guilty and therefore acquitted of: murder, as a crime against humanity; murder, as a violation of the laws or customs of war; deportation, a crime against humanity.

On 28 June 2010, having served more than two-thirds of his 5-year prison term, Gvero was granted early release by the president of the ICTY. The decision was based on “humanitarian grounds” as Gvero’s laywers presented documents showing that he needed to undergo heart surgery. The Prosecution appealed the five-year sentence claiming it to be insufficient but the proceedings were suspended when Gvero suffered a heart stroke. On 30 September 2010, the Defence asked to terminate the proceedings altogether but the Appeals Chamber denied the claim. On 17 February 2013, Gvero died after a leg amputation at a Belgrade military hospital.


On 21 September 2005, following a request by the Prosecutor, the judges accepted to join the 9 cases linked to Srebrenica’s massacre. The nine accused –Ljubomir Borovcanin, Ljubisa Beara, Milan Gvero, Radivoje Miletic, Drago Nikolic, Vinko Pandurevic, Vujadin Popovic, Zdravko Tolimir and Milorad Trbic (see “related cases”) – were all either senior officers in the Bosnian Serb army, the VRS, or the police force.

This trial has been, at least in terms of numbers of defendants, the most important of the ICTY.

All the accused, except Zdravko Tolimir surrendered voluntarily in Serbia in early 2005.

Eight were high-ranking officers in the VRS, while Borovcanin was a deputy commander of the Special Police Brigade.

They all faced charges in relation to what the prosecution called two interrelated, joint criminal enterprises: one to “force the Muslim population from the [UN safe zones] Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves” and the second “to murder all the able-bodied men captured from the Srebrenica enclave”.

At least 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in Srebrenica.

Nine of the accused were charged with murder as a crime against humanity; eight with murder as a war crime and persecution; five were charged with genocide and/or complicity in or conspiracy to commit genocide; and five with extermination. All were charged in relation to their own criminal responsibility, and two – Borovcanin and Pandurevic – face allegations relating to their command responsibility.

In a tightly argued decision, which included a separate, but not dissenting, opinion from the presiding judge himself, the judges stated that the charges the men face related to “acts carried out by the same people, against the same people, during one period of time and in the same area, and this is all that is required” to allow a single trial.

Under the tribunal’s own rules, the judges also had to consider whether having a joint trial would avoid duplication of evidence, “promote judicial economy”, minimise hardship of victims and witnesses and ensure consistency of verdicts.



The conflict in former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1999, shocked international public opinion because of the abuses revealed by the press, which were committed by all parties to the conflict (massacres, forced displacements of population, concentration camps …). The conflict is considered to consist of several separate conflicts, which were ethnic in nature – the war in Slovenia (1991), the war in Croatia (1991-1995), the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) and the war Kosovo (1998-1999), which also involved the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

The conflicts accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia, when the constituent republics declared their independence. The wars mostly ended after peace accords were signed, and new republics were given full international recognition of their statehood.

In order to restore peace and security in the region, the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of UN Charter, created on 25 May 1993, by Resolution 827, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It was determined that pursuant to numerous reports of, among other, mass killings, systematic detention, rapes, practice of “ethnic cleansing”, transfers, etc., these acts constituted a threat to international peace and security, necessitating a reaction by Security Council. As the Tribunal was created during the ongoing conflict, the Security Council expressed its hopes that ICTY would contribute to halting violations in the region. Its headquarters are in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law – grave breaches of Geneva Conventions, violations of laws and customs of war, genocide and crimes against humanity – allegedly committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991, (no end date was specified). Since its creation, the ICTY has indicted more than 160 people, including heads of states and government members.

The Tribunal’s mandate was originally meant to expire on 31 December 2009, but the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the Court with several judges, including permanent judges, so that the ongoing trials can be completed. According to the “ICTY Completion Strategy Report” from 18 May 2011, all trials were supposed to be completed by the end of 2012, and all the appeals by the end of 2015. The exceptions were cases of Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

The Security Council adopted resolution 1966 on 22 December 2010, establishing International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. The ICTY residual mechanism began functioning on 1 July 2013.

The Tribunal was called to finish its work by the end of 2014, in order to prepare closure and transfer of cases to the Residual Mechanism. The Mechanism is a small and temporary body, which plays important role in ensuring that the completion strategy of ICTY does not result in impunity of fugitives and in injustice. It is conducting all outstanding first instance trials, including those of Karadzic, Mladic and Hadzic. It is also to complete all appeals proceedings that were filed before 1 July 2013.

The ICTY is not the only court with jurisdiction to try alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal has concurrent jurisdiction with national courts. However, it takes precedence over them and may require the referral from the national court at any stage of the proceedings (Article 9 of the ICTY Statute). The Statute does not elaborate how the primacy is to be exercised, but it was asserted by the judges of the ICTY in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The primacy can be asserted in three cases: when an international crime is intentionally or unwittingly prosecuted before national court as an “ordinary criminal offence”, when a national court is unreliable, or when the case is closely related, or may be relevant to other cases being tried by the ICTY.


National courts also have jurisdiction to prosecute alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

In the former Yugoslavia, the trials of those accused of war crimes have been opened by the courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Section for War Crimes was set up in the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Special Chamber for War Crimes has jurisdiction to prosecute the most serious alleged war crimes committed in Bosnia, and was created to relieve the ICTY, so that it can focus on criminals of high rank. Its establishment was also considered necessary for effective war crimes prosecution in Bosnia. The opening of the Special Chamber was on 9 March 2005.

Additionally, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 10 June 1999, UN administration was created in Kosovo. Consequently, in 2000 “Regulation 64” Panels in Courts of Kosovo were created, which are mixed chambers at the local courts. They have two international judges and one national. These panels work in collaboration with the ICTY. They have jurisdiction over those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. They focus on prosecuting lower ranking offenders.

In Serbia, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor was established on 1 July 2003. It was created to detect and prosecute perpetrators of criminal offenses against humanity and international law, and offences recognised by the ICTY Statute, regardless of the nationality, citizenship, race or religion of the perpetrator and the victim, as long as the acts were committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991. Its seat is in Belgrade, Serbia.

Other relevant national jurisdictions are under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states with a specific legal basis, to try perpetrators of serious crimes regardless of their nationality or that of the victims and regardless of where the crime was committed.